Tuesday, July 26, 2011
film: "St. Louis Blues"
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ALL major roles given to a Black cast. In 1958, just before Bull breaks out the fire hoses and dogs. Think about that for a minute. Eartha Kitt: multi-racial, passed from one family member to the next, daughter of rape. Juano Hernandez: Brazilian street urchin, singing for food money. Nat Cole, son of a preacher, who learned to play organ from his momma and snuck out with his friends to night clubs to listen to music (sound familiar?) Ella Fitzgerald, raised by a single mom who remarried, but soon died, leaving Ella with an abusive stepfather, causing her to drop out of school, run away; one of her jobs was look out at a bordello; another was numbers runner. Mahalia Jackson: grew up in a 3 room apartment with 13 people and a dog, had physical disabilities and was frequently beaten. See, these are survivors.Each member of the cast deserves his/her own film. The story of the making of the film interests me more than the piece, itself: How did it get made? Who financed the project, the actors, themselves? Diid it have any commercial success? How did they get away with criticizing the church? Please notice: NOBODY in this film is forced to act a stereotypical role of shucking, jiving and eye-rolling; EVERYBODY, even the unsympathetic characters, has dignity and worth. Was this an historically-accurate biography of Handy? Of cours ee not. Is it a loving, deep memorial? Yes. Subjects not covered by any other medium are addressed here: the oppressive superstitiousness of the "masters'" church, the exploitation of Black song writers, the rise from slavery to middle class in only 2 or 3 generations. And Ms. Kitt's role: so dignified, so business like. She made me want to do anything possible, just to earn a smile from her! WHAT a PERFORMANCE! Show this to your kids. Do internet searches of the subjects discussed in this historic film. We have lost so much dignity and grace in the past 60 years; it's time to get back to basics.